Working Groups: Documentary

Group Co-chairs: Robert Johnson Jr. and Mark Freeman

 "In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director."

– Alfred Hitchcock

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Documentary Working Group Update, 2019 Meeting


The 2019 DWG panel highlighted the work of Minneapolis feature filmmakers--- Women Directing Docs:  Pam Colby, Melody Gilbert, and Nora Shapiro.  The panel was well-attended and members appreciated the opportunity to learn about work that was both personal and political.



Mark Freeman, Pam Colby, Melody Gilbert, Nora Shapiro


The Stoney Award was administered this year by Augusta Palmer and Nico Opper.  Zeinabu irene Davis, 2019 Winner of the George C. Stoney Award for Outstanding Documentary Work presented a masterclass, which highlighted her long career and work about the LA Rebellion.  See 


Nico Opper, Zeinabu irene Davis, Giovanna Chessler


UCLA film archives  is offering a free dvd anthology "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema"


Zeinabu has posted an editing exercise from her film "Spirits of Rebellion: Black Independent Cinema from Los Angeles"on the EDIT Media website


At our DWG luncheon members made several suggestions about how to make the DWG more effective. These include better use of the listserv --- perhaps creating discussion threads; creating an archive of films for class screenings; creating an archive of member films.  A youtube channel was mentioned as a possibility. Previously it was suggested that we create links and information about Stoney's legacy and our awards.


I'm stepping down as co-chair of the Documentary Working Group.  Several members have expressed interest in co-chairing the DWG.  If you are interested contact me  We will keep you posted as the selection process moves forward.


I have so appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many members over the years.  I am very grateful that the UFVA board of directors awarded me a lifetime membership recognizing my service over the years as co-chair of the UFVA Documentary Working Group and Chair of the Freedom of Expression Committee.




Mark Freeman

DWG Co-chair


Documentary Working Group Update, 2017 Meeting

The DWG panel at the 2017 Conference featured presentations by Claire Aguilar, the Director of Programming & Policy at the International Documentary Association and Lisa Leeman, USC professor of Cinematic Arts. The intent of the panel was to foster closer relations between IDA and UFVA/DWG.

Highlights included calling attention to IDA’s educational resources:


  This link includes a pull down topics lists with key topics like editing, cinematography,       sound,    etc.

IDA, working with major funders, has developed a “Common Core” funding proposal.


The Austin Film Society provides examples of successful documentary proposals.


See 2017 AFS Grant Doc Sample

Seed and Spark was mentioned as pro-active crowd sourcing site.


IDA and NEA have completed a documentary sustainability report. “This report explores issues facing the documentary film community, with a goal of articulating tangible, actionable strategies and initiatives to positively impact the field and contribute to a sustainable and healthy ecosystem for documentary professionals.”


DWG very much appreciates Claire and Lisa sharing their time and expertise. We look forward to IDA’s next Getting Real Conference September 2018.


The DWG Membership Meeting was well attended. Several initiatives were discussed and recommendations were adopted.


Co-Chair Robert Johnson, Jr. led a discussion about the “Stoney Awards,” which he ably administers. It was decided that DWG would link to a web based biography of George Stoney that would include both print and documentary video resources for member’s perusal. Members reaffirmed that nominees for the award must agree to use the award to attend the conference in person or to present a webinar. The criteria currently used for nomination and voting by members of the working group were confirmed.

These criteria will be presented to the membership as checklist during the nomination and voting process. Further voting will be move to a “preferential system.” Voters will rank their top three candidates. See for an explanation of the process.


 The working group agreed to make 2 recommendations to the Conference Chair for the   2018 meeting:


1.   Log lines/descriptions for all films screened should be included in both the App and the printed program. (In addition Ted Hardin suggested that filmmakers, at their discretion, provide screening links for their films. Live links on the app would permit members to view films, whose screening times overlapped.)

2.   Color-coded tracks should be adopted. A documentary track for both panels and screenings is essential. This would work to eliminate schedule conflicts, and minimize confusion for members attending. Other tracks might, for example, include screenwriting, new media, pedagogy, hands-on workshops etc.

Next year we will meet at the New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. The theme is “on the border.”  Suggestions about panel topics and presenters should be forwarded to Professor Johnson

Documentary Working Group Update, 2016 Meeting

The DWG caucus met at the UFVA Las Vegas meeting with a theme of "Moving Away From Documentary Towards Hybridity."  Bart Weiss, University of Texas Arlington presented a paper entitled, "Documentary As TV Series ('Jinx', and 'Making of a Murder')," and Danny Mydlack, Towson University presented a paper entitled, "How to Tell a Story When There Is No Beginning, Middle, or End: Creating Compelling Stories for an Information Age."


The 2016 DWG George C. Stoney Award for Outstanding Documentary Work was presented to Gordon Quinn.



Documentary Working Group Update, 2015 Meeting

DWG presented Impact Producing and Impact Assessment: Making Films for Social Change at the American University conference. The panel was moderated by Sheila Schroeder, University of Denver.  Presenters included:

Larry Kirkman, American University – "Strategic Media and Impact Producing;"

Caty Borum Chattoo, American University – "Storytelling and Social Impact;" and 

Nina Gilden Seavey, George Washington University – "Debunking the Myth of Social Impact in Documentary Film Funding."

The George Stoney Award was presented to Patricia Aufderheide.


Documentary Working Group Update, 2014 Meeting

DWG presented two panels at Bozeman. Discussion focused on documentary responses to environmental challenges. Presenters included: Gianna Savoie, Melinda Levin, Elizabeth Coffman, Ted Hardin, and Bradley Rappa.

The George Stoney Award was presented to Alan Rosenthal.


Documentary Working Group Update, 2012 Meeting

The Documentary Working Group's annual members meeting was an overflow success. Michael Rabiger led a lively and productive discussion focused on best practices in teaching. Members continued to meet over lunch at Columbia College's State St. dining hall.

Discussion items included:
Creating a documentary award named in memory of George Stoney.
Facilitating on-going discussion and creation of resources related to the topics raised in the meeting. The DWG listserve remains the primary mechanism at this time.
Concern that a place be reserved for the DWG Conference meeting and luncheon outside of the jury process.
Concern about conference scheduling which may unnecessarily place documentary panels and screening in competing time slots.
We look forward to next year at Chapman.


 Documentary Working Group Minutes, 2011 Meeting

The Documentary Working Group hosted a session featuring
Robb Moss of Harvard University and Sharon Grimberg, senior producer,
American Experience WGBH.

Lively discussions of documentary practices continued over lunch. Members
have already begun suggesting possible guests for next year's conference.
The DWG will work with Michael Mulcahy to coordinate conference screenings
in Chicago. It's our hope that conference planners will create a
"documentary track" that will minimize conflicts among documentary panels
and screenings.

In addition to our scheduled panel, DWG co-sponsored an information session
at Suffolk University about the American Documentary Showcase. Past and
future participants in ADS met to discuss opportunities for presenting
documentary work overseas.


Documentary Working Group Minutes, 2010 Meeting

The Documentary Working Group met with guest filmmaker, Bill Simmon, a filmmaker, writer and media educator living in northern Vermont. He is deeply involved in grass-roots, community- based media.

The announcement of the creation of the UFVA Freedom of Expression was welcomed. We initiated discussion of w

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